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The results are in from the first round of the state’s Unbridled Learning Accountability Model – the successor to the state’s Kentucky Core Content Test and CATS assessment models.
Pam Williams, instructional supervisor for Carroll County Schools, on Thursday explained to the Board of Education that the new Common Core Assessment Standards have been adopted in 48 states, but Kentucky was the first state to implement it in statewide testing.
“All eyes are on Kentucky,” Superintendent Lisa James said.
The new test blends the ideals of No Child Left Behind – tracking the progress of student groups, or Gap groups, that persistently struggle with achievement, including students with disabilities, students in low-income families, ethnic minorities and those with limited English-language skills, with the objectives of the CATS and KCCT tests, which were used to determine progress in the core subjects of reading, math, English and social studies.
Eventually, the scores also will reflect more accurate graduation rates by tracking students from their freshmen year to their senior year and factoring in – or out – those students who may enter or leave the district within the academic year.
The testing itself is aimed at making sure schools are preparing students as early as third grade for either college or a career upon graduating high school. The testing is modeled after the ACT test – the test most commonly used to determine acceptance into colleges and other higher-education institutions.
As with most districts statewide, Carroll’s scores appeared to be much lower than in past assessments, but state and local education officials said that was expected because the new system is much more complex. Williams and James said parents should not be concerned if a child suddenly has fallen out of the proficient or distinguished categories.
“The numbers of students who had [scored as] distinguished or proficient went down,” Terry Holliday, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education said in a news release earlier this month. “This isn’t because they aren’t making progress, it is because we are measuring them against higher standards. We’ve raised the height of the basket, lengthened the football field, made the golf course longer and pushed back the outfield fences.”
In Carroll County, Williams said, 76 percent of elementary and middle school studentsscored “proficient” last year, under the previous assessment testing. That number dropped to 48 percent this year in the new test results.
But, she said, the new test measures different things. “Mr. Holliday said that he believes this is the right thing for our kids. We believe that, too. The Common Core will prepare [our students] for college.”
One of the main differences in the new testing is that scoring is based on a 100-point system, rather than a 140-point system as in the past. Scoring for the Next Generation Learners component is based on five categories – achievement, gap, growth, college/career readiness and graduation rate, all of which are weighted differently depending on the school.
Elementary schools earned 30 percent of their points from achievement, 30 percent from gap, and 40 percent from growth. The average elementary score in Kentucky was 57.3 of 100 points. Cartmell Elementary School’s score was 47.9, ranking it in the 16th percentile among all of the state’s schools. That means 84 percent of all elementary schools achieved a higher score.
Middle school scores are based on those three areas, as well as college and career readiness, reflected in their scores on the ACT Explore test. The average score for Kentucky middle schools was 53.5 of 100 points. Carroll County Middle School’s score was 46.2, placing it in the 18th percentile.
High school scores include all four areas, plus graduation rate, which measures the percentage of incoming freshmen who earn their diploma in four years. The average score of Kentucky high schools is 54.8. Carroll County High School’s score was 52.6 (with a graduation rate of 74.2 percent), placing it in the 40th percentile among all of Kentucky’s high schools.
All three schools, and the district as a whole, fall into the “Needs Improvement” category – as do 70 percent of the schools statewide, Williams said. Those schools are required to see at least a one-point improvement, overall, in the 2013 test scores.
CCMS and CCHS both are considered “Focus Schools,” and Carroll County Schools, overall, is considered a “Focus District.” The designation means one non-duplicated gap group scored within the bottom 10 percent of the state.
There were some bright spots, Williams said. First, at Cartmell, there were very few novice students in science – 9.2 percent. The school had 22.8 percent of students scoring distinguished, which earned the school 13.2 bonus points.
Additionally, growth was ranked at the state average at Cartmell and at CCMS and CCHS, she said.
At CCMS, students scores were in line with the state average in math and writing. In math, the student performance score was 60.5, almost one point above the state average; in writing, the performance score was 61.5, just below the state’s 63.6 average.
At CCHS, students ranked above the state average in college/career readiness, scoring 58 percent compared to the state average of 47.2 percent. The students also scored above the state average in writing, scoring 67.3 (state average, 64.3), and science, scoring 56.2 (state average, 52.8.
Comparison with other
Though scoring the lowest overall, Carroll County schools aren’t far behind scores posted by surrounding counties, scoring 48.9 percent and placing it in the 15th percentile among all districts.
Eminence and Trimble, Owen, Henry and Gallatin counties all fell into the “Needs Improvement” category, as well. Nearby Oldham County was one of the few districts statewide that was named a District of Distinction with an overall score of 66.3, which placed it in the 96th percentile.
Eminence Independent Schools in Henry County, 57.0 (61st percentile) topped the list, locally, followed by Henry County Schools, 52.7 (34th percentile); Owen County Schools, 51.1 (31st percentile); Trimble County Schools, 49.9 (19th percentile); and Gallatin County Schools, 49.4 percent (17th percentile).
Carroll’s graduation rate was 74.2, 3.6 points below the state average of 77.8 percent. Comparatively, the Oldham graduation rate was 85.6 percent; Owen, 77.1 percent; Eminence, 76.2; Gallatin, 75.6; Henry, 72.0; and Trimble, 65.9.
Further assessment information
The Kentucky Department of Education lists all school and district report cards on its website, specifically at Applications.education.ky.gov/SRC/Default.aspx.
The report cards show results for all the testing done last year in the district, including the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress, or K-PREP. Students in grades 3-8 are tested in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, writing and language mechanics. Like the previous state tests, students are ranked as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished in each area.
The report cards show the percentages of students at each grade level and each rank. For example, 38 percent of Cartmell students were ranked proficient/distinguished in reading, compared to 48 percent statewide; 29 percent in math (40.4 state); 59.6 percent, science (68.8); 37.1 percent, social studies (59.8); 18.5 percent, writing (31.7); and 36.8 percent, language mechanics (49.1).
At CCMS, 42.4 percent of students ranked proficient/distinguished in reading (46.8 state); 40.3 percent, mathematics (40.6 state); 42.4 percent, science (61.8); 49.3 percent, social studies (58.6); 38.5 percent, writing (41.4); and 33.9 percent, language mechanics (38.4).
At CCHS, students were ranked for performance in writing and language mechanics: 47.9 percent of students were proficient/distinguished in writing, compared to 43.8 percent statewide; 41.5 were ranked proficient/distinguished in language mechanics, compared to 50.7 statewide.
Additionally, the report cards give in-depth results for the K-PREP End-of-Course testing given to high school students at the end of the year in English II, Algebra II, biology and U.S. history; the ACT, which is administered to juniors; PLAN, a college-readiness test administered to sophomores; Explore, a high school-readiness test administered to eighth-graders; and the Stanford Achievement Test.
Williams said the information would help the district focus its energy where improvement is needed most.
“We know, specifically, what we have to do and we will be addressing that,” she said. Officials will be working to identify the students in the gap categories that underachieved and determining “what the needs are and what is already being done.”
Williams said she and the principals from each of the schools in the district will present their School Improvement Plans to the board in December. These will outline strategies that the schools plan to implement to improve next year’s test scores.